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Leslie Middle School in Salem
Katy Coba remarks
Farm to School/School Gardens
October 11, 2010:  Director Coba speaks to students and officials as part of celebrating National School Lunch Week. Her comments include the announcement of a specialty crop grant for Salem-Keizer Schools and the North Powder School District.

Thank you and good afternoon. In my job, I talk about agriculture in Oregon. We have a special industry when you think about Oregon agriculture. We are one of the most diverse, in terms of what we produce, in the whole United States. We are predominately family farms- over 98 percent of our farms in Oregon are owned and operated by families. Yet most people in Oregon don't know much about Oregon agriculture.

So we in the industry talk a lot about how can we get the word out in terms of what we do, how we do it, what we grow, and the incredible bounty that we offer for all of us in the state. One of the things that we always say is we have got to get to the kids. We need to be teaching children at a young age about where there food comes from, how it's grown, and what are the challenges that we face as farmers and ranchers in this state when we produce our food.

This is the absolute perfect way to do that. Number one, the kids are raising food on their own. I would say a majority of the kids no longer have gardens at home and the only opportunity they are going to have to truly get their hands in the dirt, plant seeds, see things grow, understand that a radish is harvested underground, understand that a blueberry is picked off a bush- we just don't do gardening at home like we used to do when all of us were growing up.

Secondly, once you have raised that radish, what do you do with it? Do you just eat it like that? Are there other ways that you can eat it? What are the opportunities? So taking the food they are raising in their own garden and bringing it into the classroom, talking about the nutritious value of that food, what you can do with it and what you can pair it up with- these are things the kids can learn. Ideally, and what we are most excited about, is the opportunity to get the kids out to a real farm because raising food in a garden raises its own set of challenges. Raising food on a farm is taking those challenges and magnifying them by 100. Consuelo, the teacher here at Leslie Middle School for the school garden class, said they were having challenges with deer [getting into the garden] and they were afraid they wouldn't have produce to harvest because of the deer. They put up fences. Out on the farm, you don't get to do that. The bugs and all the different things that farmers deal with and still raise incredible food here in Oregon- now we can share that with students. Ideally they will go home and tell their parents about the great food they learned about in school and say, mom and dad, we need to go to Fred Meyer and we need to ask Fred Meyer for that radish or potato, and we want to make sure that food was grown in Oregon.

That's how we feel we can really connect better in our industry and connect better with students, whether it's on the nutrition side, the challenges and opportunities that are growing, and supporting agriculture here in Oregon.

So today, we are very excited here at the Oregon Department of Agriculture, first of all in partnership with the Oregon Department of Education- Joyce Daugherty and Joan Ottinger are here. This is an incredible state integrated program to work on farm to school and school gardens. We couldn't do it without them.

We are excited to announce a specialty crop grant award to the Salem-Keizer School District, which was selected as the one large urban school district in the state, and then the North Powder School District in Baker County is the one small rural school district to take this notion of farm to school and farm gardening to the next step and integrate it into the classroom to teach kids about Oregon agriculture and get them out on the farm. We hope that this pilot project will grown into a statewide model in terms of where we can go in the future with farm to school.

Thank you so much for being here. We are delighted. We love the food. I'm jealous. I didn't have food like this when I was growing  up! Thanks again, everyone.

Audio of Katy Coba remarks
Audio of remarks